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Miscalculation Invalidates LHC Safety Assurances

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the philosophy-of-science dept.

Math 684

KentuckyFC writes "In a truly frightening study, physicists at the University of Oxford have identified a massive miscalculation that makes the LHC safety assurances more or less invalid (abstract). The focus of their work is not the safety of particle accelerators per se but the chances of any particular scientific argument being wrong. 'If the probability estimate given by an argument is dwarfed by the chance that the argument itself is flawed, then the estimate is suspect,' say the team. That has serious implications for the LHC, which some people worry could generate black holes that will swallow the planet. Nobody at CERN has put a figure on the chances of the LHC destroying the planet. One study simply said: 'there is no risk of any significance whatsoever from such black holes.' The danger is that this thinking could be entirely flawed, but what are the chances of this? The Oxford team say that roughly one in a thousand scientific papers have to be withdrawn because of errors but generously suppose that in particle physics, the rate is one in 10,000."

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684 comments

Voodoo Science (5, Insightful)

alain94040 (785132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646369)

This is voodoo science. And I don't mean the LHC experiments.

I mean the TFA that in essence claims that because an expert may be wrong, any probability the expert assigns to a risk can be ignored and inflated by as much you feel like it. Talk about bias.

--
The 5 Steps to a Great Startup Idea [fairsoftware.net]

Re:Voodoo Science (5, Funny)

madsenj37 (612413) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646455)

If they are correct, what are the chances they are wrong (or right)?

Re:Voodoo Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646515)

With my luck, the day that the planet is swallowed by a black hole will be the same day that I find myself in the emergency room with a Viagra-induced five-hour erection.

Re:Voodoo Science (2, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646583)

If they are correct, what are the chances they are wrong (or right)?

They are precisely equal to:
(1/1000)^N
where N is number of indpendent studies agreeing with the conclusion and having no contraditory ones.

For example, the ideas that the earth is round or that man evolved from apes or that smoking kills you is therefore not very well established since there are a lot of contradictory works that reduce that.

Re:Voodoo Science (5, Funny)

BeardedChimp (1416531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646873)

Well if we want to find out who's right, we can just keep an eye on their webcam [cyriak.co.uk] for anything suspicious.

Re:Voodoo Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646913)

+1 Funny

Re:Voodoo Science (1)

sreid (650203) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646967)

moderated you as informative before seeing the whole thing..this comment should fix that

Re:Voodoo Science (4, Insightful)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646603)

This is voodoo science. And I don't mean the LHC experiments.

It's not science, it's just probability. It's senseless to try to assess any statistical estimates *themselves* based on Physics, just the probability that they could be wrong based on some very broad assumptions. Specifically, any estimate is arrived at by a chain (rather, DAG) of logic. What you CAN estimate is the probability that any Physics-oriented estimate is based on incorrect assumptions, by (presumably) analyzing that chain of reasoning down to first principles and assuming that a "logic error" might have been made at any point. I hope that the authors aren't taking it further than this, in which case, this is statistical masturbation.

Re:Voodoo Science (1)

JavaManJim (946878) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646673)

Whoo hoo voodoo! The paper looks over at the "its gonna happen because the base argument is flawed". What about it's not going to happen because the argument is flawed.

Re:Voodoo Science (5, Insightful)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646737)

Essentially their argument boils down to because people make mistakes and we can calculate the odds of them making a mistake, if they calculate the odds of something and it's greater than the odds of them having made a mistake then you have to use the odds of them making a mistake as the probability of the event happening. Of course this reasoning is total bullshit, and just the sort of abuse statistics gets a bad name for. By that sort of reasoning we should all go play the lotto as clearly the odds of someone miscalculating the chances of winning the lottery are much better than the calculated odds of winning, never mind the fact that even if they made a mistake in calculating the odds it wouldn't shift the calculation enough either way to get it anywhere near the odds of them having made a mistake.

Re:Voodoo Science (5, Insightful)

KagatoLNX (141673) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646969)

Actually, this isn't that much voodoo.

It's just saying that, if someone has a 1/10,000 chance of being wrong, their assurance that there is a 1/1,000,000,000 chance of something isn't that good of a bet. In other words, if you want the latter level of certainty, you don't really have it, because of the fallibility of the research itself.

This is actually rather obvious. If Jimbo tells you that there's a 1% chance that your tire will go flat if you don't fix it, that's not 1% if Jimbo is wrong 50% of the time. At best, it's 50.5%. Or something like that.

Assuming his brother Jethro is just as bad (but uncorrelated) with him, then their dual recommendation that it will go flat only gets you 25.25% certainty, not 1% (or 0.01%). The numbers may not be exactly right (my stats are rusty), but you get the point.

Basically, they're saying that the research provides a wider error bound than it may claim, assuming that scientists uniformly make logical mistakes--which they very probably do.

The implication, then, is that the LHC estimates should be independently done by other teams. This is, well, the basis of the scientific method, so essentially this study provides a statistical analysis of what we already know--after enough work, science gets results. Of course, the base theories assumed by all of the researchers could be wrong, which would be unfortunate, but the LHC is going to nail that one pretty quickly. :)

This is not surprising, but not voodoo either.

Re:Voodoo Science (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646619)

Well, in fairness, scientists are wrong all the time. Not that it means anything bad for "science" as a method, but that's how the method works. You make a guess, you're wrong, and then you try to figure out why you're wrong. Science isn't the art of being right about everything the first time out.

Think about the financial problems. They were brought on partially because a bunch of very smart people developing a statistical theory that (supposedly) meant that things had a very low chance of imploding. Then they imploded anyway.

Now, when you take into account the idea that the LHC was built specifically to create a set of circumstances that don't happen frequently enough so that we can study what happens specifically because we don't know exactly what happens, then it becomes clear that it's stupid to say, "Don't worry, because we know exactly what's going to happen."

On the other hand, if you want to argue that it will do something very dangerous (e.g. create a black hole), then it falls on you to present a convincing argument. It's not enough to say, "We don't know what will happen, so obviously there's a good chance that something horrible will happen." Hell, it's technically "possible" (in the sense that anything is possible) that me getting out of bed in the morning will destroy the earth. It doesn't seem likely, though, and no one has successfully convinced me that I'm dangerous, so I'm going to get out of bed in the morning.

Re:Voodoo Science (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646799)

In defense of the quants that created those statistical models, It was just as much of a problem with garbage inputs being put into them as it was a problem with the models themselves ( primarily, a lack of transparency into the complex financial instruments).

Re:Voodoo Science (2, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646821)

Hell, it's technically "possible" (in the sense that anything is possible) that me getting out of bed in the morning will destroy the earth. It doesn't seem likely, though, and no one has successfully convinced me that I'm dangerous, so I'm going to get out of bed in the morning.

You almost had a good excuse for staying in bed there. "Sorry Boss. I can't come to work today because if I get out of bed I might destroy the planet."

Re:Voodoo Science (1, Insightful)

Dastardly (4204) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646905)

Actually, the LHC creates a set of circumstances that happens all the time. It just doesn't happen if front of very sensitive particle detectors at a very high rate. So, the LHC was built to replicate events that happen all the time in front of sensitive instrumentation.

So, yes, the LHC calculations could be somewhat off, but we have observations (not calculations) of events with much higher energies than the LHC can reach with cosmic rays hitting the earth's atmosphere and we are all still here. Jupiter is much bigger, so many more of those events occur on Jupiter. The sun is even bigger and many more high energy events occur for cosmic rays hitting the sun.

The calculations for LHC safety for micro black holes come from trying to put a number on the probability that if these events can destroy a planet by creating a black hole what is the probability that the Sun, Jupiter or any other planet in the Solar System would still exist given the number of high energy LHC-like events that have occurred over the last 4.5 billion years. The probability must be incredibly small, what the LHC calculations do is put a value to incredibly small.

Re:Voodoo Science (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26647009)

Actually, the LHC creates a set of circumstances that happens all the time.

Ok, can you clarify for me: is it literally a set of circumstances that happens all the time on Earth, or is it a set of circumstances that is equivalently energetic to other things that happen all the time. I'm just asking because I've gotten some vague answers about this before.

In any case, I would stick by my claim that if we actually knew exactly what was going to happen, we wouldn't be building this thing because there'd be no point in studying it. But I also agree that "not knowing exactly what's going to happen" isn't the same as "dangerous", which was one of the big ideas that I was trying to highlight.

Re:Voodoo Science (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646665)

I mean the TFA that in essence claims that because an expert may be wrong, any probability the expert assigns to a risk can be ignored and inflated by as much you feel like it.

No, it means that the expert's assurances that we won't accidentally destroy the planet are baseless.

That's not inflating anything. Nobody's saying that "nobody's proven the event unlikely, therefore it's likely." What they are saying is that they need stronger evidence that this activity is safe. You don't say, "Oh well, we don't know for sure that anything bad will happen, so we'll just assume that it won't." That is voodoo science.

Re:Voodoo Science (4, Insightful)

Bob-taro (996889) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646669)

I mean the TFA that in essence claims that because an expert may be wrong, any probability the expert assigns to a risk can be ignored and inflated by as much you feel like it. Talk about bias.

Bias? Hype, maybe. Actually, this does make some sense, IMO. Say I was offering to shoot an apple off the top of your head and I told you I'd calculated there was only a 1 in 1 million chance of the bullet hitting you instead. Now if you knew (somehow) that there was a 1 in 10 chance I'd gotten the calculation wrong, you're going to look at it as more of a 1 in 10 chance of getting hit ... or at least way more than one in 1 million.

Re:Voodoo Science (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646823)

Now if you knew (somehow) that there was a 1 in 10 chance I'd gotten the calculation wrong, you're going to look at it as more of a 1 in 10 chance of getting hit ... or at least way more than one in 1 million.

Yeah, I think the point is that you have to at least take that possibility of error into your calculations if you want to be very safe. But then, how do you know you've calculated that correctly?

They've done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it works every time.

Re:Voodoo Science (1)

ardle (523599) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646935)

you're going to look at it as more of a 1 in 10 chance of getting hit

...and you'll be right - on average ;-)

Re:Voodoo Science (1, Insightful)

Imagix (695350) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646973)

I mean the TFA that in essence claims that because an expert may be wrong, any probability the expert assigns to a risk can be ignored and inflated by as much you feel like it. Talk about bias.

Bias? Hype, maybe. Actually, this does make some sense, IMO. Say I was offering to shoot an apple off the top of your head and I told you I'd calculated there was only a 1 in 1 million chance of the bullet hitting you instead. Now if you knew (somehow) that there was a 1 in 10 chance I'd gotten the calculation wrong, you're going to look at it as more of a 1 in 10 chance of getting hit ... or at least way more than one in 1 million.

Not necessarily. That's only a 1 in 10 chance that I'd gotten the calculation wrong. What's the probability that the "error" that I made meant that the probability of you getting hit is now 1 in 10 million?

Re:Voodoo Science (5, Insightful)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646837)

I agree. Just look at this statement: "The focus of their work is not the safety of particle accelerators per se but the chances of any particular scientific argument being wrong." Can you get any broader than that? What they're essentially saying is that anything can be wrong - Including their own paper.

Re:Voodoo Science (1)

enjerth (892959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646853)

I was under the impression that it really is voodoo science.

How is a black hole supposed to form from these experiments? Either I'm entirely mistaken about the nature of black "holes", or the scientists commenting on the probability of one are little more than code monkeys banging the keyboard to try to get results.

Doesn't a black hole require an incredible mass? Do they think they're going to be creating matter, or creating artificial gravity? Outside of those two possibilities, how could a black "hole" ever form?

I would estimate the probability of creating a black hole to be exactly 0.

Re:Voodoo Science (1)

PotatoFarmer (1250696) | more than 5 years ago | (#26647015)

How is a black hole supposed to form from these experiments? Either I'm entirely mistaken about the nature of black "holes", or the scientists commenting on the probability of one are little more than code monkeys banging the keyboard to try to get results. Doesn't a black hole require an incredible mass? Do they think they're going to be creating matter, or creating artificial gravity? Outside of those two possibilities, how could a black "hole" ever form?

Because from a relativistic perspective, mass is a function of acceleration. And the particles in question will be moving very, very fast. IANA physicist, but that's my understanding of it.

To paraphrase Sledge Hammer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646379)

Trust us, we know what we're doing.

Red Title? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646395)

Why is the title for this article in a big red box? Is this supposed to mean "emergency" or "panic" or something? Way to make us all look like idiots.

Are they good for anything? (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646399)

Maybe I just like Romulans, but when I hear that the LHC will be making black holes I don't think about "woo, the earth is gunna get swallowed!" I wonder if there are any cool ways to use them for power generation.

Re:Are they good for anything? (5, Interesting)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646439)

There is.

Matter being drawn into the black holes should be accelerated to damn close to the speed of light, and will emit massive amounts of gamma radiation, with a conversion rate that's higher than even fusion.

If we could harness the energy of the gamma emissions around artificial black holes, we'd be have vast energy generating capability, without the pesky fast neutrons that most fusion reactions generate.

Re:Are they good for anything? (3, Funny)

setagllib (753300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646531)

Great. Now in a matter of years we'll have hippies protesting abuse of Nature's Own Black Holes for generating power. It's not really sustainable energy if all the mass you add to the hole extends its event horizon. (Does it?)

Re:Are they good for anything? (1, Interesting)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646597)

true - but if you have a stable black hole you risk the chance of losing containment... which could be bad...

If you have an unstable black hole you risk not feeding it enough and having it evaporate, or feeding it too much and having it become stable. If it evaporates you have to dedicate significant energy to getting another one going. I don't know what the energy balance would look like, but I'd think constantly having to pop new black holes would significantly decrease the effective conversion rate.

If we had space ships in non-earth orbit, it would be a great idea, I'd rather not try to make a stable black hole that could collide with earth.

Re:Are they good for anything? (5, Insightful)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646743)

I don't see the problem, facts:

1) We will all die some day.
2) The solar system will stop working some day.

So what's the problem? Sure it may kill us and all life on the planet, but does it really matter? We're screwed anyway.

Re:Are they good for anything? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26647013)

You need to read more science fiction.

Re:Are they good for anything? (4, Funny)

BobNET (119675) | more than 5 years ago | (#26647027)

true - but if you have a stable black hole you risk the chance of losing containment... which could be bad...

I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean "bad"?

Re:Are they good for anything? (0, Redundant)

EdZ (755139) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646483)

If TV has taught us anything, we'll soon need Degeneracy Reactors to power our giant robots.

Re:Are they good for anything? (2, Funny)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646977)

The real problems come in when aliens from outside our space-time continuum try to harvest their young in your warp core, thinking it's a natural gravity well! Time starts doing some whacky stuff!

Red Title? (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646433)

Why was this tagged "redtitle"? I've seen people mention red titles several times but never have titles looked any different from normal ones.

Re:Red Title? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646505)

Red title means it's hot off the press, so to speak. Why people want to tag it as such is beyond me.

Re:Red Title? (1)

ampathee (682788) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646509)

It briefly had a red title. Not sure what that indicated though - perhaps that there were no comments?

Re:Red Title? (3, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646707)

Editors: Would somebody PLEASE create a FAQ on this? A red title thread has been in several articles every day.

Answer: A red title is what appears on articles subscribers see in "The Mysterious Future!" previews. For some reason, as an article is taken out of "The Mysterious Future!", the flag that makes the article a subscriber-only preview seems to come off some period of time ahead of the flag that makes the title red, so what you are seeing is what subscribers see when the article is in subscriber preview mode.

Either they did this on purpose to indicate that the article is 'hot off the presses' or there's some sort of race condition in their new styling code.

What is the probability... (2, Funny)

collinstocks (1295204) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646445)

...that these researchers are wrong about the probability that the other researchers are wrong?

Re:What is the probability... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646545)

...that these researchers are wrong about the probability that the other researchers are wrong?

1 in 1000. But only if they are right. If so the probability is zero. If they are wrong then its obviously 1. In any case, 42 seems like a good number for this type of question...

Re:What is the probability... (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646757)

It depends on the probability that the researches researching the research being researched are wrong.

Grandstanding.. (1, Insightful)

Matheus (586080) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646463)

It's not like they actually showed an error in the calculations or showed any proof of danger.

This is a bunch of bored brains saying that on the basis of pure statistics: If one in 10,000 papers have an error in them then the probability of this paper having an error in it is 1 in 10,000 ergo any claim must be degraded by 10^-4?

They should be spending their valuable time actually checking the facts and figures and coming up with some real conclusions not some abstract theory on the reliability of scientific calculations..

Re:Grandstanding.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646493)

That, or churning out faulty papers to statistically reduce the risk that the LHC will consume us all.

My first thought from reading this (3, Interesting)

Reapman (740286) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646485)

My first thought from reading the summary is that essentially we're at a point in technology or whatever that we could, POSSIBLY, destroy the planet in a literal sense. That's a scary thought, especially if you think what we'll be capable in a hundred years from now.

I STILL don't think the LHC will kill us all but the fact we're debating it says something.

Re:My first thought from reading this (5, Funny)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646637)

I STILL don't think the LHC will kill us all but the fact we're debating it says something.

I don't know what you're trying to imply here.

People are still debating evolution.

Re:My first thought from reading this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646711)

people are still debating whether there really was a lunar landing.

Re:My first thought from reading this (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#26647033)

The thing that really gets me is that people debate the first moon landing all the time, with Apollo 11.

Have you ever heard anyone try to deny that Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, or 17 landed on the moon?

Re:My first thought from reading this (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646855)

People are. Nobody who actually knows something about the subject is debating evolution.

Re:My first thought from reading this (2, Interesting)

thenewguy001 (1290738) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646681)

We've been able to destroy the entire surface of the planet many times over for decades now, ever since the nuclear arms race with the Soviets. It doesn't really matter whether the surface is destroyed or the entire planet. We're just as screwed.

With Iran having secured the technologies to enrich uranium for manufacturing nukes, I dare say the probability of a nuclear world war wiping out humanity is a hell of a lot more likely than the LHC destroying the planet.

Re:My first thought from reading this (1)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646689)

Before the first atomic (hydrogen?) bomb was detonated there was concern that the reaction would not stop. Hmm, maybe if we use the little black holes for missile defense you know, use them to shoot nukes just as they detonate would they absorb the explosion?

Re:My first thought from reading this (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646713)

we're at a point in technology or whatever that we could, POSSIBLY, destroy the planet in a literal sense

We reached that point over sixty years ago -- during the Manhattan Project, there was thought to be a possibility that the first atomic detonation would start a runaway fusion reaction in the atmosphere. If that had happened ... well, okay, the planet itself would still be here, but it would be a sterile rock, which is close enough to "destroyed in a literal sense" from a human perspective. They knew the risk was there, but they didn't let it stop them then, and we shouldn't let it stop us now.

Re:My first thought from reading this (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646765)

I STILL don't think the LHC will kill us all but the fact we're debating it says something.

It says that there are STILL people trying foil my evil plan to create a giant, planet-sucking blackhole by controlling the minds of the LHC scientists! Curses!

Re:My first thought from reading this (5, Insightful)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646929)

> I STILL don't think the LHC will kill us all but the fact we're debating it says something.

Yes, it says that people are easily scared by things they do not understand. See also: wireless, mobile phones, things that have a 'chemical' smell... Ask some random people what would happen if the sun were to be replaced instantaneously by a black hole with a mass equal to that of the sun (moving in the same direction as the sun with the same speed, etc). Most people will reply that the earth would get 'sucked' in the black hole... if you don't even understand gravity you have no place in a debate concerning the LHC.

Everyone is entitled to an _informed_ opinion.

Re:My first thought from reading this (1)

bogado (25959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646999)

People used to believe that incantations could summon gods or demons (or what ever) that were able to destroy the world. The fact that those people believed that didn't make it more real.

The main argument to why the LHC will not destroy anything is very simple indeed. No machine human made collisions with that amount of energy don't mean that those don't happen naturally.

In fact collisions with even more energy happen naturally and frequently, it just happen that we don't have huge detectors to measure them when they happen.

If lovin' you is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646487)

I don't wanna be right...

So... (0)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646489)

If I say "There's no danger here because higher energy interactions happen naturally all the time", there's maybe a 1 in 3 chance I'm wrong. (Hey, I'm no physicist, right?) So that means my argument is invalidated and can't be considered more than a 1 in 3 chance that the world won't end?

I'm also no statistician, but I don't think that's right.

(But I there's probably at least a 1 in 3 chance I'm wrong about that, too.)

Does it really matter? (1, Insightful)

A Commentor (459578) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646517)

Either they are right (the LHC is safe), and nothing happens. Or they are wrong, and no one is left to say anything about them being wrong.... ;-)

Re:Does it really matter? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646695)

Exactly. Not only doe sit not matter, but there *is* no matter (and won't be any matter afterwards) if the blackhole accident happens... ;)

Re:Does it really matter? (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26647007)

If it does create a planet eating black hole, we will be dead before we know it.

Or maybe it will take years to develop and we'll have a good incentive to start colonizing space asap?

If the Earth were eaten by a black hole, the moon and satellites would orbit at the same exact spot forever almost.

Meh.... not really a problem (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646547)

The purpose of the LHC is noble, and results could be what we need to get off this rock and really dominate the galaxy. If they destroy the Earth... meh, it was a good try. Maybe next time.

So the fact that there's no published figure (3, Insightful)

Werthless5 (1116649) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646579)

Means that there is a much greater than zero probability? Sorry, either the paper is wrong or your interpretation of it is wrong. Publishing a probability is not a determination of that probability.

There is no published figure regarding the probability of your computer turning into chocolate pudding before it reaches warranty. The probability is still approximately zero despite that.

The probability of a black hole at the LHC swallowing the Earth is approximately zero, and it doesn't matter how many sensationalist journalists try to misconstrue real science in an effort to drum up sales.

Re:So the fact that there's no published figure (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646931)

There is no published figure regarding the probability of your computer turning into chocolate pudding before it reaches warranty. The probability is still approximately zero despite that.

So, you're saying it's a virtual impossibility. Therefore it must be a finite probability.

Something here is flawed (4, Informative)

squoozer (730327) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646587)

and I don't think it's the assurance that the LHC won't produce black holes that swallow the earth. There reason the whole LHC black hole rubbish is dismissed out of hand is simply because we have already obvesrved particles colliding with much higher energies than the LHC can produce and they didn't form black holes. Where did we observe these collions - in earth atmosphere. We built the LHC so that we could study the collisions in a controlled manner not because they are of particularl high energy.

Word twisting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646605)

Because using chance as scientific basis for disaster has always been accepted in the scientific community for trying to prove something wrong. FUD tactics at it's best.

It was a black hole that damaged the LHC (1)

fregare (923563) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646633)

I think the truth has to come out. The cause of the damage to the LHC was caused by a black hole. Thank God it only only lasted 1 microsecond. One more microsecond and the whole of switzerland and most of the US would have been destroyed. Of course the concomitant thrust of such an inversion of matter at the LHC would send us into the sun. I guess the world will end sooner than 2012.

This is dumb as shit. (5, Insightful)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646641)

Opponent: Oh crap, you're whacking things together, it could destroy the earth, crazy scary technology we don't understand!

Proponent: That could never happen.

Opponent: OMG yes it could you don't know wtf you only have studied this shit your whole life you're not a sane normal rational person like the boys in Alabama!

Proponent: Look, we've done tons of calculations; we've compared this against real-world natural occurrences; we've considered the number of times the conditions we've come up with have occurred in our lifetimes, and it's huge. We're just scaling it down to a laboratory level so we can observe it in a controlled environment. It can't break anything.

Opponent: BUT YOU COULD BE WRONG!!!!

Black holes are one thing (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646645)

but what are the chances of the LHC creating a strangelet?

Re:Black holes are one thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646917)

50/50. But just think, there's a 50/50 chance you'll end up in the parallel quantum universe where it doesn't happen!

The bigger question is- (1)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646677)

-who is paying for these "results"?
I find the whole black hole idea ridiculous, it seems like something someone would come up with as a front to push another agenda.

Bring it on! (5, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646697)

My retirement fund is pretty much crushed at this point.
Being consumed by black holes created by a multibillion dollar scientific whiz-ma-gig is sounding like a pretty good exit plan.

Re:Bring it on! (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646727)

Same here....I'm "only" off around 12K, but still hurts! Take off the tin foil hats, fire up the LHC, and lets party til the thing swallows up the earth!

But.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646715)

...they can't destroy the earth. That's where I keep all my stuff.

A simple reason (1)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646729)

I see no problem with the LHC accidentally creating a blackhole.

Why?

If it does, we're all dead anyways, so it's not like it's really going to matter since there will be no one alive to place or take blame.

Re:A simple reason (2, Funny)

Shadow-isoHunt (1014539) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646897)

But what if we don't die? What if we discover that we've been living in a black hole this whole time and the current universe's edges are simply the expanding event horizon? Living in a black hole within a black hole would be neat! I wanna press the red button :(

papers on arXiv not in TeX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646739)

should not be taken seriously. even if they're by Florentin Smarandache.

I call BS - RTFA - it's about probability, not LHC (5, Informative)

kulakovich (580584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646759)

LHC is used as an example, misleading headline written by Fox News. -1

~kulakovich

Well, the good news is (3, Funny)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646775)

That this would be the end of the world that neo-cons hope and pray for. Now, they will not have to see a black president in for long, nor take responsibility for their actions.

Nevermind (1)

davro (539320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646777)

We might as well blow the whole shooting match up trying to figure out how the world works, rather than some pointless nuclear war that is looming in the not to distant future. Do it CERN fire up that LHC and take it to maximum power captain.

In the words of Dr Brian Cox (5, Funny)

BeardedChimp (1416531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646787)

"Anyone Who Thinks the LHC Will Destroy the World is a Twat"

He's a particle physicist from my physics department (Manchester), and hence let it be known Oxford physicists are twats!

Heart of Gold (4, Funny)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646789)

'If the probability estimate given by an argument is dwarfed by the chance that the argument itself is flawed, then the estimate is suspect,'

But if the improbability is large enough, and you hook it up to a nice, hot cup of tea; then we'll travel instantaneously through every point of the Universe, and possibly create a worried-looking whale and a bowl of petunias.

Damn it... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646881)

How did this crap manage to find Slashdot?
I saw this either this week or last with some idiots moaning about it.

There are equations for working this crap out, and unless they REALLY screwed up with everything we currently know about physics, i have a very good feeling that we won't be ripped atom-from-atom.
The blackhole won't be able to gather anywhere near enough mass within our stars lifetime, IF one is even created in the first place.
By the time this is even a threat, humans have either:
1) died
2) died
3) ????
4) died.

Actually, wait a minute, wasn't something similar on HERE a few days back about it?
It was either here, CNET or Current, and i highly doubt it was Current... (no offence)

I'm not worried (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646903)

I'm not worried because I would expect that people associated with the LHC have thought about the personal consequences to them if they are wrong, and the LHC does in fact generate black holes that are long-lasting enough to reach critical mass.

This isn't like the threat of global warming. Being personally identifiable as the cause of the destruction of our birth planet is the sort of thing that leads to show trials and executions. These people are laying their lives and the well-being of their families on the line. I think that's a big enough penalty that we can trust assurances without worrying about the details.

Sexy Stats (1)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646911)

The people who wrote this paper don't give a shit whether this might induce false furore. All they care about is using pop culture science issue to get you to read their rhetoric.

Sensationalist BS (4, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646939)

The article is a pile of BS topped by a sensationalist (and completely wrong) headline. The paper abstract is interesting, but that's it.

Essentially the blog article makes the jump from 1 in 1000 papers being withdrawn because of "an error", any error, to the idea that the safety of the LHC is "invalid" due to a "massive miscalculation."

How can a hypothetical miscalculation be "massive?" Anyway, you can't just take an average retraction rate for papers and assume it applies to anything you like. The arguments for the LHC being safe are based on well established science. That is, for the LHC to destroy the world not only would ONE paper have to be wrong, but a LOT of papers would have to be wrong, and all in the same direction.

Just turn the damn thing on (1)

Turzyx (1462339) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646955)

I'm bored of reading about the doomsday preachers. If the LHC blows the planet into smithereens, we won't have to listen to these pedantic pessimists anymore. If the LHC doesnâ(TM)t blow up the world, the pedantic pessimists will retreat into their shells and we still wonâ(TM)t have to listen to them anymore. Win win! Flick the switch homies.

Interesting but not wholly accurate (1)

PDAllen (709106) | more than 5 years ago | (#26646957)

Summary is certainly not accurate: the paper doesn't claim any kind of miscalculations; the published papers giving confidence limits do explicitly assume truth of models.

That said...

The paper essentially says: if the models are accurate then there is a tiny probability of catastrophe - but if the models are inaccurate then that probability might be much larger. Which is fine as far as it goes, it's certainly in accordance with standard probability theory.

However it does miss one quite important point: which is that whether or not the 'true' model of physics is what we think it is (in fact, we know we don't have it) it has to obey certain conditions. It has to be true that the intermediate-scale low energy limit is Newtonian, that if you introduce high energies, large masses or simply large scale then the limit must be Einsteinian, and that the low-energy small-scale limit must match known quantum theory. All these things are tested literally billions of times a day. The only questions are with what exactly happens in the areas we haven't tested much (which admittedly are large areas).

This means that even if there are errors in the 'accepted models' used to calculate the chance of catastrophe, those errors are very likely not to be enormous - if you prefer, the paper should perhaps split its analysis into 'accepted model holds', 'accepted model is only wrong by a factor of 10^3' and 'accepted model is badly wrong' - and the point is that the probability of catastrophe given either of the first two cases remains tiny under the existing analysis, while we may reasonably assume that the probability of the third case is miniscule.

As to the withdrawing of papers - yes, many papers have flaws, and even many flaws remain undetected. On the other hand, many papers are not really read in detail - and those papers tend to coincide. If some graduate student writes a paper on something not especially interesting, then they will read it (but it's hard to catch your own errors), their supervisor should read it (but may not do so properly) and the referee should read it (but is likely to simply check for plausibility not go into detail). Quite possibly no-one else looks beyond the abstract and first few pages - so errors aren't caught. On the other hand, if a paper is important and many people look at it, then errors usually are caught because several people independently check the details in the process of trying to understand it.

One should not push too far the 'if all our theories are wrong there will be a catastrophe' idea - it's not a false idea, but equally it's perfectly possible that when the 9 billion names of God are written down the universe will end; it's just not very likely.

And you wonder how black holes form... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26646961)

All the black holes in the sky are a sign of civilizations that have advanced enough to try this experiment. We should be proud to be another.

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